Are you making excuses or making progress?

Two new posts written by yours truly are up on the Inverted Gear blog. I’m proud of both and you should check them out:

I’ll be at Reilly Bodycomb’s 3-day Rdojo sambo camp in NJ this weekend along with Nelson and Hillary from Inverted Gear, so you can expect a write-up on that experience in the near future!


Crucifix Double Feature with Inverted Gear

Lately I’ve been lucky enough to train with Nelson and Hillary, the black belt couple behind Inverted Gear. We got together and shot technique videos for the Inverted Gear YouTube channel, including two on my favorite position, the crucifix.

As a gift to fans of, Nelson and Hillary hooked me up with coupon code AESO for 15% off coupon code for I’ve been a fan of their gis since back when they first started (here’s my video review from a few years ago) because they make tall/slim models in my size so I am very happy recommending you pick up one for yourself.

Here are the crucifix videos:

Crucifix from Side Control to Wristlock

Breakdown of Baret Yoshida’s Crucifix at Polaris Pro


Flipping the BJJ Classroom with Bruce Hoyer

Last week a friend directed me to a video called “How I teach BJJ” by black belt Bruce Hoyer. In the video, Bruce explains how he has converted his school to the “flipped classroom” model, inspired by a recent movement to reform education made popular by organizations like Khan Academy.

In an academic setting, a flipped classroom has students watching online videos of lectures on their own, then coming to class to do their practice problems, group discussions, hands-on projects, etc. with the teacher going around to give one-on-one attention. Bruce has adopted this for his BJJ classes at Next Edge Academy in Sioux Falls, SD. Watch his explanation:

Watch “How I teach BJJ” on Youtube.

As you read through the Q&A with Bruce below, you’ll see mixed in videos by cognitive scientist Robert Bjork as he talks about the science of learning that supports Bruce’s approach to teaching.

Q: As an instructor, did you have any mental blocks that made it difficult to get away from the classic class model?

A: The biggest mental block I had to overcome was the fact that I had yet to see anyone teach this way so I assumed it must not be a proper way to instruct. I kept researching and researching and finally I just decided to take the leap because much of the information I read about learning pointed to this style of teaching. I made sure to keep one group learning the traditional way just to see the difference in the two groups.

Q: How much work was it to film the techniques and set up the online components? What would have made this easier?

A: The first step was building a curriculum. So far I have about 300 5-minute videos that I have filmed for the curriculum and they are kind of ever-evolving, so I am constantly making changes.

My first stab at this had things broke down into systems and I quickly realized this was a bad idea because the student could go a long time without learning basic positions and fundamentals.

The second version of my curriculum had techniques more widely scattered which worked better. The mind tries to make sense of everything so sometimes putting things in systems can, in my opinion, actually hurt people’s progressions because they are not coming to the conclusion on their own. Essentially I am giving them the dots and asking to connect them, rather than me showing them how they are connected. From everything I have read, if they come to this conclusion rather than having it given to them they will retain it better.

The third version I added moves before and after the move to help with association. So say the move is kimura from guard. The first class you would learn kimura from guard — that’s it. The second class would then be getting into guard and doing a kimura — so maybe you are escaping side and going into guard. The third class in this sequence, which is actually about 10 classes later, would be getting into the guard, doing a kimura then something after the move fails, maybe a guillotine or hip bump sweep. They get to pick the techniques before and after for the most part so they get to influence their game, so they start to associate the new move with moves they already know. I also purposely put it 10 classes after because that will force them to recall a move from a few weeks ago. The more they have to think about it, the better chance it will stick.

So long story short, to date that’s the best possible system I could come up with that and I would try to mimic that, but once the curriculum is set the videos don’t take long. Keep them short, 5-6 minutes per class tops so the person can review easily before class. Also on review days you don’t need to show the move again. Those review videos in my curriculum are me just talking about the concepts of the moves.

Q: Have you run into any unexpected problems implementing the flipped classroom model?

A: With a flipped classroom the problem I was surprised with was how quickly you have to convey to everyone what they are doing. Often I will yell out what everyone is doing that round and I only give myself 1 minute to do it in. If I have a class of 25 that’s a hard task to tell 13 people what move they are doing. The TVs helped with that. Now everyone can look but I still yell them out just as a confirmation that they understand.


In this system, the higher belts have to know the name of the moves by heart so they can help. This was difficult in the beginning too. All of our higher belts had to go back through the white belt curriculum so they knew what I meant. This is tough for new students from other schools coming in that were blue or purple belts already. I feel that it is necessary though.

The other big one is keeping up on lesson plans. It doesn’t take long, maybe 10 minutes tops for a class of 25 people, but sometimes you get sidetracked and the students are like “Hey, where is my lesson plan!?” The nice part is at least you know they care!

Q: I have seen concern that this method doesn’t suit the student who just wants to show up and not put in extra time outside class. Is this a concern you share?

A: I do often run into are people being unprepared. Most of my students are prepared which is great. However some don’t want to put in the work. At first this upset me, but later I understood that not everyone is looking to become the best. Some people just want to train and that’s fine. Now if someone hasn’t studied before they came in, they are the last person to drill so it doesn’t take away from others’ time, then I or a higher belt will show them how to do the move. I feel that even with them not preparing beforehand, they learn a lot. I just think it would sink in more if they reviewed the 5 minute video before class and after. Some of the students make notes after each class in their online notebook that I can see, and I think that further helps cement the learning process. The goal is to not make it detrimental to those trying to learn.

Q: What advice do you have for someone interested in trying the flipped classroom?

A: It’s a lot of work in the beginning and you should prepare for your students to reject it at first. It will feel super clunky for about 2 weeks then once people get the idea they really like it. It also makes for tougher learning in the sense that you have to bridge some of those gaps I talked about earlier. So people start to get frustrated when they can’t think of a move to do before or after, but like you have learned with “training dirty or ugly,” that’s often when the real progress is made. You start to form links and force your brain to remember these things because your brain has determined that they are essential. I am a huge fan of active recall. If I can get someone to remember move associations that they have built they are far more likely to remember it rather than telling them “do an armbar, now a triangle, now an omoplata.” For me that’s the biggest part.

I want to use as much research on learning as possible to develop a system where no matter who it is, they will learn at an accelerated pace. A lot of information is out there and we as a community refuse to use it because that is the way it has been done. Does the old system work? For sure! Can it be better? I think so.

Grapplers of the 1920’s took Judo and modified it into what today is known as BJJ. They broke traditions and evolved it to fit more body types and work for everyone. I feel like the same needs to be done in teaching, not only for BJJ but in schools in the USA as well. I still feel like I am maybe just now a blue belt at this learning stuff, so I think my personal system will change dramatically the more I learn.

With that being said, people shouldn’t be afraid to try new things with teaching. The best support I get is from my students because they know the hard work I put into it. When they see that, they try harder and it makes my goal easier to achieve. You have to really take time to set it up so it won’t fail. However, if you do put in the time, your students will love it. To my knowledge, I don’t have a single student that would prefer learning the other way and that speaks volumes to me.

If anyone is interested in trying it, please let me know I would be happy to lend a helping hand and maybe you can show me a better way!


Invisible Jiu-Jitsu with Jack Taufer

My friend Jack Taufer is a now not-so-secret source of the fabled “invisible” jiu-jitsu that Rickson Gracie and his lineage of black belts are renown for. You should remember Jack from my recent video about finding simpler solutions to problems. Budo Jake had Jack in the Budovideos studios to film five instructional videos to help promote BJJ vs Cancer, Jack’s effort to raise funds for his sister and her family as she fights stage 4 breast cancer. You can contribute to the fundraising at He is just over halfway toward the goal. I am sharing all five of Jack’s recent technique videos below.

BJJ vs Cancer with Jack Taufer (All 5 videos in a Youtube playlist).


Are you a bad enough dude to save jiu-jitsu?

Do you love retro RPGs?

Do you love BJJ?

If you answered YES! to either or both of those questions, boy do I have exciting news to you.  Super Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Dojo Storm smashes your loves together into pixelated goodness. My buddy Marshal D. Carper from Artechoke Media is on the verge of giving birth to this digital brainchild, but he’s asking for your help pushing it out. Head over to the Indiegogo fundraising page to support the most creative project in BJJ and snag a perk.

Optional Question #3: Have you always wished you were in a video game where you can fight a giant baby in a wrestling singlet?

Why do I even bother asking rhetorical questions like this? Of course you do. Even better news: there’s a perk that can make your dream come true!


Your Practice Should Be As Ugly As Your Face

Your Drills Should Be Uglier” states the title of Marshal D. Carper’s recent article in Jiu-Jitsu Magazine, and I agree.

Marshal teamed up with Trevor Ragan of to apply modern research into motor skill development and skill acquisition from other sports to our art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Give it a read if you haven’t already.

Now let’s talk about ugly practice. In studying the fields of motor learning and sports training, you run into common themes:

  • Create a rich sensory environment that pushes the student up to the edge of their ability.
  • Students learn best through trial and error that allows for self-correction and timely coaching cues.
  • Small failures or confusions may be frustrating in the short term, but they teach valuable lessons.
  • Meaningful practice requires full focus on the present moment.

You may recognize many of these concepts from a few years back when I reviewed The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. His follow-up work, The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, condensed his thesis into chewy self-help nuggets. Most of his tips are good, though a few raise a skeptical eyebrow, especially those that hold up myelin as a holy grail. (Read my review of The Talent Code if you want my criticisms.) But overall it’s full of good ideas.

In Benedict Carey’s book How We Learn, the author talks about block versus random practice, the same topic Marshal and Trevor cover in their JJM article. I will review How We Learn soon, but its explanation of block and random practice was my favorite section, so let’s talk about it now.

Carey gives the example of women learning badminton serves. The women were split into two groups to practice three serves–short, medium and long. One group practiced each serve 20 times before moving to the next type (block practice). The other group practiced by performing serves called out by the researcher, but still performed the same total number of each serve (random practice).

The initial results were what you might expect: when tested shortly after practice, the women who did block practice performed better. This would be a terrible story for proving my point if it ended there. It doesn’t, of course.

When tested again later, once the initial practice had a chance to wear off, the random practice group performed better, retaining their skills.

Many more studies have shown this same pattern: block practice gives the illusion of faster improvement in the short term, but skills gained through random practice last longer.

The explanation is that block practice quickly devolves into rote repetitions that fail to develop the other skills needed for spontaneous performance. Block practice becomes “practicing to be better at practice” or simply “practicing for practice.”

One interesting quirk to know is that, per Carey’s book, when surveyed on which type of practice they preferred, people choose block practice. They like block practice because it’s less confusing and they can see a clear improvement from the first rep to the last. Unfortunately for them, the brain prioritizes learning how to deal with the problems caused by random practice. That sense of frustration is good for driving improvement, but not necessarily for going home full of self-satisfaction.

So how do you incorporate random practice into your training?

The good news is that “random” practice is baked right into BJJ with our daily sparring. We also love our “king of the mat” games and positional sparring. Matt Thornton has explained this as aliveness in martial arts for a long time now, and his organization Straight Blast Gym has a wealth of smart coaching/training methods that stem from this understanding of what makes good or bad practice.

The downside of using only sparring as our random practice method is that it can be difficult to get in enough “reps” of a technique, especially beginners who can’t dictate the positions of the match very well.

For those familiar with The Talent Code‘s chapter on soccer, this would be like trying to learning ball handling and passing skills only by playing full games. Yes, you may learn it eventually, but you also spend a lot of time waiting for the ball to make it to you. But games or drills that speed up the time between reps and put players’ feet in contact with the ball more often can do a better, faster job.

Try this at your next open mat:

  • Pick three or so related techniques you want to learn. Perform the techniques a few times to make sure you’re doing them right.
  • Now have your training partner call out any of the techniques at random. Perform the rep and reset back to the starting position. Do this for reps or for time.
  • Your partner doesn’t even need to call out anything if you’re working on a main technique and counters to its counters–they just need to do the counter (e.g. cross knee guard pass, cross knee to backstep, cross knee to long step).

This can be a great warm-up before free-for-all guard passing games or sparring. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

My next post on this topic will go over games you can run as a BJJ coach to incorporate more random practice into your classes.


The Weird Science of Pain and the Brain

Over a year ago, I set out to review Kelly Starrett‘s book Becoming a Supple Leopard and its claims to “improve your athletic performance, extend your athletic career, treat stiffness and achy joints, and prevent and rehabilitate injuries.”

This is not that review. (Sorry to disappoint.)

Starrett came to my attention as the CrossFit coach on Youtube with good videos about stretching against resistance bands, smashing your butt with lacrosse balls, and the importance of deep squatting like you’re pooping in the woods. Supple Leopard is Starrett’s attempt to collect up all these tips and tricks into a systematic framework. My opinion on how well he did that will come at a later date.

What has delayed my review so long is the twisting rabbit hole I fell down once I began researching the science (and pseudoscience) of sports performance, physical therapy and especially pain neurology. Every time I think I finally had a handle on the topic, I find another study, another expert, another methodology that makes sense but contradicts the others.

The purpose of this post is not to try to sort out what is right or wrong (as if I could) but to share the most interesting talks and articles on pain science I’ve run across. These will be referenced when the real review comes out, but I’d like to get this out first.

Studying the material below, you’ll learn how our understanding of pain is very different than how it was traditionally taught, especially the neurological aspects of chronic or persistent pain. These forms the basis for the main criticisms I’ve seen of Starrett’s methods, or more accurately, all physical therapy that focuses solely on the body’s mechanical and tissue problems without addressing the neurological, psychological, and even social/cultural aspects of pain.

If you find some of the pain science hard to swallow–like how bad MRI’s are at predicting if a patient reports pain, the effectiveness of “fake” knee surgery, and how the biggest predictor of a back injury causing chronic pain is not severity of tissue damage–I don’t blame you. It is weird. Any time I learn more about the brain–and the brain is the key to understanding pain–the weirder it seems to get.

For a good explanation of how the understanding of pain and its treatment have evolved–and how much of what we were taught as “common knowledge” is wrong–I highly recommend Pain Education by

Here are many of the videos, articles and podcasts about the neurology and psychology of pain that I found most educational:

Body in mind – the role of the brain in chronic pain

The mystery of chronic pain

Pain, Is it all in your mind?

Lorimer Moseley on ABC Classic FM

The Science of Pain podcast by Scientific American

  1. How sports psychology can be used to treat sports injuries
  2. Biopsychosocial Pain : Pain and brain – the biopsychosocial method of chronic injury rehabilitation

Pain really is in the mind, but not in the way you think

A Revolution in the Understanding of Pain and Treatment of Chronic Pain

What should fitness professionals understand about pain and injury?

Overcome Pain

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3

The Science of Pain

Focused symposium: Pain Management


Finding Simple Solutions Thanks to Jack Taufer

In this video, we go over two ways to deal with the annoying “1/4 guard,” or whatever you call it when you’re almost in mount but your foot is still stuck. The first method is the rolling back take or twister roll, as made popular by the likes of Eddie Bravo and Ryan Hall. The second technique is a decidedly simpler solution.

The friend I talk about in the second half is Jack Taufer, a black belt under Dave Kama in the Rickson Gracie lineage. You may have seen Jack on’s TWIBJJ series or his video threads on the UG (links below).

Jack is raising funds to support his nephew’s mother as she fights cancer. Please consider sending a PayPal donation to

You can learn more about Jack on the Kama Jiu-Jitsu website. He is available for private lessons at Rickson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Laguna Niguel and seminars anywhere you want to fly him. Georgette Oden wrote a glowing review of one such seminar.

Thanks to Jeremy for teaching the first half of this video. Jeremy is the owner and head instructor at Zombie BJJ in Allentown, PA, where I train and teach too.

If there’s interest, I can talk in more depth about the topics of simplicity vs complexity, depth vs breadth, individual style vs school/lineage style, refinement vs experimentation, body mechanics, postural alignment, etc. Jack is on a kick of filming requests too, so I’ll see if I can get him to share his thoughts too. Let me know with your comments or by sharing on Facebook!

In the meantine, watch more technique videos by Jack Taufer:

Rear naked choke details with Black Belt Jack Taufer

This Week in BJJ Episode 39 invisible Jiu Jitsu with Jack Taufer

This Week In BJJ Episode 62

Technical Mount Escape Demonstration by Jack Taufer

Flattening From the Back by Jack Taufer


Berimbolo Knockdown [Video]

The first and most critical movement of the bermimbolo — knocking them to their butt — caused me problems for a long time. In this video, I talk about how I used to try (and fail) to do the berimbolo, how the berimbolo is different than seemingly similar older De la Riva sweeps, and how to do it right now. Watch on “Berimbolo Knockdown” YouTube.

Thanks to my sponsors Scramble, Gawakoto, Grapplearts and Grapplers Guide! (If you join GrapplersGuide, use code “Aesopian” to save $30!)

If you enjoy my teaching style and want to support me, buy a copy of my highly-praised crucifix instructional through Artechoke Media.